The name "Ho’onunui" means "to flourish and exceedingly multiply" and the aim of this non-profit organization is to equip, empower and encourage the reproduction and multiplication of the good people and good works of Christ in Hawai’i, the Pacific, Asia and beyond! Ho’onunui was formed in 2017 to resource Pastor C’s leadership development and church consulting work in Asia. The three largest investments of time and energy are currently in Japan, Mongolia and South Korea.

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Monthly Pastor Commentary

Limitations of Cultural Intelligence

I consider myself blessed to have been raised amid three distinct cultures. Since my father and mother came from opposing cultures, and I identified from an early age with the local indigenous population that was accepting of mixed-race children like me, it seems that I was given a head start in cultural intelligence before it became a thing. While there are people groups that are harder for me to understand and develop meaningful relationship with, I can see how having learned to navigate differences in a right-brain manner as a youth has been a greater help to me than mere possession of left-brain or informational awareness of cultural differences. There’s also a limit to cultural intelligence that I’ve increasingly become aware of. Cultural intelligence can be likened to a still photo of a people group, but pluralistic societies challenge us to see cultural intelligence as more of an asymmetrical moving target.

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is defined as "the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations." CQ has become a commonly used tool in leadership and management due to experts like David Livermore who have observed that diverse teams can come up with far more innovative solutions than homogeneous teams in business, education, government, and military environments. However, diversity alone is no guarantee of success. Livermore notes that the key to leveraging diversity in teams "lies in minimizing the interpersonal conflict…and maximizing the informational diversity that exists in the varied perspectives and values." While this application of CQ does seem to bring measurable success in a particular company, office, or team, it’s not as successful when applied to multiple subsidiary companies, offices in different parts of the world, or with teams drawn from different groups of people with contrasting priorities and needs.

James Plueddemann and Michael Hoppe make the useful observation that "most of us who grew up in the U.S. have assumed that anyone can learn to be a leader and that everyone desires personal advancement." Hoppe goes on to describe common assumptions that North Americans make about leadership development: "Leadership development is the development of individuals… [where] almost everybody can develop leadership capacities…being open to change is good…practical experience is good… [the need for] improvement and progress are normal…taking action is essential… [and] objective feedback is good." The degree to which you found yourself agreeing with these assumptions may reveal much about your understanding of leadership. Where these assumptions fall short, however, is that they propagate the misconception that CQ is taught rather than acquired.

As Hoppe noted, "U.S. leadership development courses tend to focus on the individual as a leader rather than conceptualizing leadership as a function of the group or organization as a whole." This seems to be a glaring weakness in common CQ training as it is aimed at understanding a culture when, except for monocultural or totalitarian contexts, cultures are rarely singular or found outside of a societal context in which two or more cultures come together in community or conflict. Could we be training people for situations they are unlikely to face in the real world? Does your pursuit of cultural intelligence provide you with sufficient awareness of the context in which you will serve or lead? Does your preparation include a pursuit of societal intelligence, too? Or are you, and/or your organization, content with just knowing how a handful of individuals view their world, before attempting to understand and control perceptions, conversations, activities, and outcomes?

1.  David Livermore, Driven by Difference, AMACOM, 2016, p. 20.

2.  James E. Plueddemann and Michael Hoppe, Leading Across Cultures, IVP, 2009, p. 204.

3.  Ibid.